Spice Up Your Social Presence with Images: Avatars and Facebook Ads

In my previous articles in this series, I’ve discussed using images for blog posts, for PDF downloads and for presentations. Today we’re going to cover how to use images to jazz up your social presence online.  We’ll focus specifically on two uses:  avatars and Facebook ads.

Using Stock Images for Avatars

Today whenever you set up a profile on a social media site, you’re invariably asked to upload an image for an avatar. Most people upload a photo of themselves. But there are situations where a personal photo is not ideal. For instance, more and more we see social profiles set up for a business, or around a product, or to rally a group of people who share an interest in the same topic. In those situations, rather than using a personal photo, you might use your logo as the avatar.

Another option is to use a stock image of some relevant object or design.

As regular readers may know, I own a social media site for small businesses, called BizSugar.com. When you register and set up a profile there, you are prompted to upload an image for your avatar. We provide a default avatar — our white sugar cube on a blue background (get it? BizSugar — sugar cube?). But our analysis shows that those who customize their avatar by uploading their own image on average get more votes (double) for their articles and find more of their articles “going hot” due to popularity.

Why? In a stream of white-sugar-cubes-on-blue-background avatars, any different image stands out. A different image makes it obvious that somebody cared. Others respond to that.

While many of the custom avatar images are a person’s photograph, with 116,000 members we do see avatars that are images of a design or some object, such as from a stock image.

Quick tips for using a stock image as a personalized avatar:

  • It’s best to select a square image or an image suitable for cropping to make it square (rather than rectangular). Most avatars are square. If you upload a square image, it’s more likely that the social site will display the image without distortion (without changing the “aspect ratio”) due to forcing a rectangular image into a square one.
  • Save money by choosing the smallest size image when you purchase it.  The image must be squeezed down and/or cropped anyway —  no sense in buying a larger image.
  • Choose a simple image that will be recognizable when reduced in size. Avatars are small. Any details in an image will be lost once the image is turned into a small size. Better to use an image with a single object (say, an apple on a white background) that can be immediately recognized, rather than a detailed image that is hard for the eye to comprehend when it is reduced to 35×35 pixels or 90×90 pixels.  Notice the following two images:

    Both are bulls-eyes.  They might be suitable for an avatar for an “on-target” business strategy group.  Now look below and see how they look when squeezed down into a small 35×35 pixel avatar.  Notice the difference?  The black and white bulls-eye is recognizable even at a tiny size.  The other is not.

Facebook Ads – Stock Images Make Them Zing

On Facebook, the mammoth social media site, you can purchase advertising inexpensively — often for a couple of cents per click.  Facebook ads can be a cost effective way to give a jump-start to efforts to grow a Business Fan Page or Group.  Or they can be used to develop interest in a product or service.

Facebook will “automagically” generate an ad for your Business Page, by dropping in your logo into its ad format, and pulling text from your Facebook Page.  This is straightforward and takes little effort.  However, it can be boring.  Who wants to just click on a logo, anyway?  A more creative way to capture attention is to use an intriguing image and text in the ad. A stock image is perfect.  That, along with some interesting text, will make it more likely that a viewer will click on the ad and explore what you have to offer.

Quick tips for using a stock image in a personalized Facebook ad:

  • Make sure the image is relevant.  Obviously, you want an image where the subject reinforces the words in the ad in some way.
  • Appeal to emotion.  A smiling face in an image will draw in viewers.  Warm colors that make you feel good are also inviting.  An image with yellows and greens and soft blues is more likely to entice than, say, a gray or drab brown image.
  • Keep it light.  Facebook is an upbeat site, with lots of personal mixed with a little business.  People who are there are in a relaxed social mood. It’s best to keep your images “light” in topic. Images that are too businesslike or too “corporate” may not get you the results you want, because they will seem out of keeping with everything else on Facebook.

As business increasingly moves online, we have to present our businesses in a visually effective manner.   A good professional photograph or other image does wonders for a very small cost, provided you choose intelligently.


Anita Campbell Anita Campbell is the Founder, CEO and Publisher of Small Business Trends and has been following trends in small businesses since 2003. She is the owner of BizSugar, a social media site for small businesses.

4 Reactions
  1. I can’t emphasize enough how important the image is to the success of a Facebook ad. Since people aren’t on Facebook to look at ads, you need to grab their attention. Your image is what will draw them in, your ad gets the click. And you need to keep your images fresh since nobody wants to see the same image over and over again.

  2. As a business, knowing your way around an internet is a must in 2010. The ones that still fail to make the conversion to online will fizzle out the next 10 years. nice post!

  3. @Robert, thanks for making that point. And as a marketing/online advertising expert yourself, I especially appreciate the comments.

    I see some really creative ads on Facebook — they’re the most creative anywhere, and I think it just goes to show that you don’t have to spent a lot of money. Just be creative!